The "Call of Duty" series has always had quite the dedicated fan base, and long-time fans were over the moon when it was announced that "Call of Duty: Vanguard" would be set in World War 2. The single-player campaign tells the story of Task Force One, a six-man squad that was sent to stop Germany from recovering towards the end of World War 2.
While critics had mixed reviews about the campaign in "Vanguard," there’s a surprising amount of information to unpack. Though the game was off to a rocky start, the campaign was complete and functional — albeit short. When asked how long "Vanguard" took to beat, most people agreed that it was roughly five hours of play for most players. Five different stories are told over the course of the campaign, each focusing on a different character. Spoilers Ahead.
The campaign centered around the antagonist, Herman Friesinger, who had a plan called Project Phoenix that was essentially a coup d’etat of Germany. Task Force One, on a mission to discover what Project Phoenix consisted of, got caught by Friesinger and spent time in a jail cell while trying to figure out how to stop Germany. During their time in captivity, Hitler and the Third Reich are defeated but Friesinger attempted to start the Fourth Reich and flee Berlin. However, Task Force One escaped and ultimately killed Friesinger, uncovering German plans to take over the rest of the world.
There was one major theme underlying the entire campaign, though, which was narrated by Task Force One leader Arthur Kingsley.
Call of Duty: Vanguard and completing the mission
At the beginning of "Call of Duty: Vanguard," players experienced playing as Novak, one of the Task Force One soldiers. After the intro mission, five of Task Force One’s soldiers were captured. Immediately, Novak was killed by Friesinger, and Kingsley took over narration. In the beginning, Kingsley said that "Sometimes the only way to honor a fallen soldier is to finish the mission. But try remembering that while their blood stains your boots."
The theme of completing a mission was apparent throughout the entire game, most notably again at the end when Kingsley and the others were able to escape. Once they escaped, the group began heading for freedom. However, after the game panned over the Webber’s dead body earlier in the scene, Kingsley asked the group if they’d like to put an end to everything and stop Friesinger — therefore, finishing their mission.
The backstories for Kingsley, Polina, Jackson, and Rigg also saw connected to this theme throughout their earlier experiences in the war, which affected their characters in the midst of everything.
How Kingsley’s story ends in Call of Duty: Vanguard
The first story players experienced was Arthur Kingsley’s, and players saw him go from dropping in on D-Day as a regular soldier to taking charge of the remaining paratroopers and securing a German hanger with a small squad. His story was his journey to becoming a leader that can do whatever it takes to finish the mission.
Throughout the entire campaign, Kingsley was full of brilliant plans. He’s the brains behind the plot that freed Task Force One, and his planning was shown off in his story as well when he used trucks to get past a minefield — which again led the people under him to victory.
However, his first plans that players saw led to several members of that first squad being killed in action by friendly fire, which influenced Kingsley’s understanding of losing people he leads. This directly applied to Task Force one as both Novak and Webber were killed in action.
At the same time, these early plans were also fueled by the same desire as the rest of the story — the only way to honor the fallen paratroopers was to complete their mission, which Kingsley argued and fought for from the very beginning.
How Polina’s story ends in Call of Duty: Vanguard
Polina Petrova was arguably the most developed character in "Call of Duty: Vanguard." She started the story as a medic who cared about her homeland, Stalingrad, and her family, which consisted of her brother and father. However, after she lost everything, she’s turned into a vessel for vengeance with one goal: to complete her mission.
The last words from her father were to take care of her brother, Misha. The rest of that mission saw Polina doing just that, and after saving her brother, her initial story was over. However, later on in the game, Polina got a second story mission. While she and Misha were attacking the Germans occupying Stalingrad, Misha sacrificed himself to give her time to stop the Germans.
Misha’s last words to Polina were to not let the Germans take Stalingrad. After his death, that’s all Polina focused on. Her story showed her taking out top German commanders, and even her time on Task Force One was dedicated to stopping the Axis powers and protecting her country — ultimately, she honored her fallen family by finishing the mission.
How Jackson’s story ends in Call of Duty: Vanguard
Wade Jackson, the Ace Pilot of Task Force One, was transformed from an overconfident pilot to a versatile fighter that knows what it takes to get the job done.
At the beginning of Jackson’s story, he and his gunner were headed into the Battle of Midway on the Pacific Front of the war. After taking out Japanese carrier ships, Jackson’s plane was shot down and the two end up stranded in Papua New Guinea. Eventually, the duo was rescued by the 93rd Infantry Division of the American Army.
There’s one point in the story where Jackson watched a soldier sacrifice himself to allow a safe passage for the rest of the troops. Jackson doesn’t understand the soldier’s choice, and Washington explained that Jackson needed to learn the difference between "suicide and sacrifice." Eventually, Jackson did and was key in the success of the battle. He pushed through and finished the mission despite his changing circumstances.
Additionally, Jackson had to learn how to work with a team, which was also seen when he returned to help Task Force One escape instead of escaping himself.
How Riggs’ story ends in Call of Duty: Vanguard
The last back story that players saw was Lucas Riggs, an Australian soldier who was at odds with British commanders. His story was slightly different than the others, as he pushed forward out of a sense of curiosity disguised as duty, and he learned the hard way that he’d have to push forward to honor his fallen friends.
At one point in his story, Riggs completely disregarded his commanding officer and instead did what he felt was right. While his idea was successful, he still showed blatant disrespect that could’ve been considered treason, and he ultimately spent time in a jail cell for it after also punching the same commanding officer.
While Riggs did learn the same thing as the game’s other characters — to finish a mission to honor fallen soldiers — he also grappled with authority and discovered that it’s okay to follow commands. Despite arguing with Kinglsey at the beginning of the game, Riggs followed his orders until the very end.
Call of Duty: Vanguard has plenty of room for more missions
The ending of the campaign in "Call of Duty: Vanguard" set itself up perfectly to continue later on in the series.
After Task Force One escaped and killed Friesinger, they took his plane to get home. Since the plane was part of Friesinger’s escape, it housed a ton of important Fourth Reich documents. Ultimately, the team found everything about Project Phoenix that they were looking for in the first place.
These documents showed plans for taking over every country in the world, as well as space itself. These plans set up the perfect way for the story to continue in future "Call of Duty" titles or in DLC. There’s even one part where Kingsley asked Jackson if he could fly a rocket, which could be a hint toward the future adventure with a certain type of explosive.
Kingsley got the last word, appropriately, and ended the game by saying that "Our mission was complete, but there’d be more … We were the Vanguard." This statement, along with everything else, left plenty of room for future "Vanguard" games or DLC to keep the game going.